Reprinted with permission from Creators.
Last week, in a discussion thread on my public Facebook wall about the current political climate, a reader asked a question that’s been needling me: “How do we keep from demonizing those who would demonize others?”
In attempting to answer her, I realized how much I’ve been wrestling with this since the 2016 presidential campaign.
I am not isolated from Donald Trump voters. A close relative voted for him, as did some longtime friends. People I’ve trusted with everything from our home to our pets voted for Trump, too. It is impossible for me to demonize all of these people in my life and be done with them. We have too much shared history that forces me to remember all those other parts of them I loved and admired before they broke my heart.
I wasn’t raised to give up on people. Nearly 20 years after her death, I am still my mother’s daughter. She was used to being underestimated by so many people who later told her she had changed their lives. It hurt her sometimes when people initially dismissed her, but she put her faith in God and second chances. Had she not been willing to wait out their growth spurts, she would never have known the magnitude of her impact.
My mother would not have voted for Trump, not ever, but she also would not have cut out of her life those who did. I know her way is the high road, even when I’ve lost the map. Especially then, I suppose.
I have reached the point, however, where I do not hesitate to tell people who voted for Trump that I do not need to hear why they thought he should be president.
I tried, I really did, but I’m done. This administration is pulling hundreds of screaming children out of the arms of their immigrant parents, often without so much as a goodbye. I don’t have a hot second for those who still think President Trump was a good idea.
The news just keeps getting worse as the Republican majority in Congress refuses to stand for the lives of innocent children. And isn’t that one hell of a punchline?
Last week, the Des Moines Register reported that a teenager from Iowa who had lived in America since he was 3 was deported to Mexico and killed soon after his arrival.
The Washington Post reported that after his 3-year-old son was ripped from his arms, 39-year-old Marco Antonio Munoz killed himself in a Texas cell.
He was seeking asylum from Honduras after the murder of his brother-in-law, which Attorney General Jeff Sessions says is no reason at all. Ditto domestic violence, including rape, which Sessions likened to just another one of those “personal circumstances.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal met with dozens of migrant mothers in a federal prison who described being forcibly separated from their children, many of them infants. In some instances, they could hear their children screaming in the next room.
And now McClatchy is reporting that Trump “is looking to build tent cities at military posts around Texas to shelter the increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children being held in detention.” One such tent city might hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children.
So no, I am not interested in listening to why Trump “isn’t all bad,” and for the life of me, I can’t imagine how anyone still says that out loud.
I know that some regret their vote for him. I hear from them every week, sometimes in person. I do not need their confession. I try to maintain an impassive face and an open heart when they feel compelled to share it anyway, but I have no words left for them. I am not going to waste my energy on this.
Nor am I going to spend any more time engaging those who still want to talk about how Hillary Clinton and Trump were just such horrible options that they either didn’t vote or cast their ballot for someone who couldn’t win. Each of us has only so much energy each day, and I’m not sparing one more ounce of mine on their exhausting lack of contrition.
So many tell me lately that they’re ashamed of this country. I don’t feel that way, but it’s because I am so regularly exposed to the goodness of fellow Americans. Just yesterday, I was making what I thought was small talk with a white 33-year-old construction worker, when he suddenly offered how the election had changed him.
“I won’t be an idle bystander anymore,” he said. “I won’t be that white person you see in those videos watching — and doing nothing — when a racist thinks he can bully somebody else. This is who I have to be.”
This is who we all have to be. If you’re up for it, I’m all ears.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (email@example.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.